Campervan conversion insulation: the best materials for optimal results# Camping
Your campervan is not just a travel buddy, it’s your home on wheels. And for you to really feel at home, the indoor climate needs to be just right. Well thought out insulation for your campervan conversion is the key to achieving the perfect climate in an energy efficient way. But don’t worry, good insulation for your camper is not as complex as you might expect.
We’ll help you transform your draughty van into an insulated comfort-camper.
There are several important aspects to consider:
- Which are the most suitable materials for insulating a campervan conversion?
- How do I fit insulation in my camper and what should I pay attention to?
- Which parts of my campervan need to be insulated?
- What are the weak spots in my campervan insulation?
Insulation material: the best options and what to avoid
Effective camper insulation depends on choosing the right materials. Stuffing your van walls full of last year’s newspapers is certainly not the most effective insulation option.
There are several different materials that are suitable for insulating a campervan conversion, but some are definitely better than others. You should carefully consider the alternatives rather than just opting for the cheapest materials to insulate your van. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that good insulation has to be expensive. Here are four types of insulation material that are suitable for campervans:
Polystyrene foam boards are widely used for insulation. Many campers are insulated with styrofoam or styrodur, although this material is not ideal for campervans. The boards are not flexible so they don’t easily fit into walls of the van, which are usually curved. This means that they are difficult to glue and achieving optimal results is stressful, if not impossible! What’s more, this material has a poor fire safety record. On top of this, polystyrene tends to make annoying squeaking sounds.
You have probably seen the yellow rolls of glass wool often used for insulation in construction. This material can be used for insulating a campervan, however, glass wool absorbs moisture so a vapour barrier also needs to be used. This involves a lot of effort for a material that is certainly not skin friendly and will seek out even the smallest crevice to get inside your campervan. So it is also not the best option for motorhomes.
As you can see from this heading, one of the most popular the campervan insulation materials is available under several different names. This material is similar to insulated camping mats. It is made of closed-pore foam, which has good insulation properties and absorbs minimal or no moisture. These foam sheets are easy to use and both self-adhesive and non-adhesive options are available. The cost is similar to the other insulation options but this material is much better suited to campervans. XPS is another type of foam, but it is more rigid so it can be a challenge to use.
Whilst Armaflex/Armacell/X-trem insulator are a practical option, they are not very eco-friendly. If you’re looking for a green insulation option, you should consider hemp rolls or sheep wool. Hemp rolls (like glass wool) are not ideal in terms of moisture absorption. Sheep wool insulation is another popular sustainable alternative. This material manages moisture well and also provides great sound insulation. The downside of these eco-friendly materials is the higher cost in comparison to other options. If you want to the greenest option, hemp rolls or sheep wool are certainly the best choices for insulating your campervan.
How to insulate your van
Once you have chosen and purchased your insulation material, it’s time to fit it to your van. How you do this will depend on the material you’ve chosen, but there are two main types:
- Self-adhesive insulation material
- Non-adhesive insulation material to be fitted using spray adhesive
If insulating a van is new territory for you and you’re not confident using spray adhesive, then self-adhesive insulation material is the best option for you.
XPS foam insulation board and styrofoam or styrodur sheets are usually fitted using strong spray adhesive. It’s important to check that the adhesive is suitable for your chosen insulation material. Some glues may contain substances which damage the material and cause it disintegrate. We recommend that you check the manufacturer’s instructions or seek advice in a hardware store.
If you’re a DIY beginner, self-adhesive insulation material, such as Armaflex or Reimo Tent Technology X-Treme Insulator are easier to fit. You just cut the foam sheets to the right shape and size. Then you peel off the plastic film and the sheets are ready to stick in place.
Whichever material you choose, you need to carefully prepare the surface of the area you want to insulate. You will also need to measure the area so you can cut the material to the right size. It’s a good idea to make templates Next, you need to ensure the surface is free of dust, oil and dirt, and that is it completely dry. So before you get sticking, you need to give everything a good clean.
Once the surface is ready, you can fit your insulation. It’s essential to avoid any air pockets under the insulation material as this will lead to condensation when the temperature changes. Air bubbles enable moisture to build up behind the insulation. The aim is to shift the dew point from the wall to the inside of your campervan by ensuring that there are no air pockets when you attach your insulation material. Ensuring that moisture cannot collect between the wall and insulation will protect the metal from rusting, the material from rotting and will also prevent your insulation from coming unstuck.
Which parts of your campervan should you insulate?
The ideal answer to this question is that every part of your van should be insulated! In reality, this is not always straightforward. If you enjoy an outdoor view from your dinner table, there’s no harm having a window opening in your insulation.
There are three critical areas of your campervan which should be insulated.:
- The floor
- The roof
- The side walls
We recommend insulating the largest surface areas in your van completely because this will have the greatest effect. The door panels should also be insulated. Obviously, you should not close off the windows, but there are some simple, removable options for insulating these too. Self-adhesive insulation strips, and foil insulation tape can be used in hard-to-reach places – these are particularly useful for insulating the edges of doors and windows.
The floor in your campervan is one of the biggest thermal bridges, so fitting effective insulation to this area is particularly important. We recommend fitting the insulation material to the vehicle floor without using glue. This ensures that the floor can be accessed easily, e.g. to remove and treat rust. The underfloor insulation will be held in place by the weight of the flooring and furniture. Alternatively, you could attach the insulation to the underside of your floor panel.
Even well-insulated campervans have their weak spots. These are usually windows, doors and thermal bridges, i.e. parts of the bodywork that connect the interior and exterior. It’s easy to insulate the windows with thermal window blinds suitable for your vehicle model. However, insulating thermal bridges is more tricky.
If these are large areas of bodywork, you could use Armaflex and cover this with a self-adhesive wallpaper to make it more attractive. In many campervans, foam insulation spray is used to fill these cavities. However, we don’t recommend this as it is not very effective if this part of the vehicle is still a bridge between the interior and exterior of the van.
Photo source: https://www.wohnmobilforum.de/w-t97502.html
Insulating your campervan: the bottom line
Using the right materials to insulate your campervan makes all the difference. Always make sure you prepare the surface properly before you fit the insulation material and be careful to avoid air pockets. For maximum effect, make sure you insulate all large areas and minimise the number of thermal bridges. You can deal with weak spots in your insulation using extra materials, such as insulation tape or strips and thermal blinds.
Good luck insulating your campervan!
If you’d like to give your campervan interior a fresh new look, you’ll find lots of ideas and useful tips in our article Renovate your campervan.